Book Review: ASP.NET MVC in Action

UPDATE: Looks like I may have jumped the gun with this review. The actual print version is due to be released in September 2009. So the content may change a bit.

I am a huge fan of Manning’s Early Access Program. I get to read books on new technology as they are written. It is almost like the authors and I are learning about the topic together. Every few weeks an update arrives in my inbox and I upload it to my Kindle via Amazon’s conversion service.

A few weeks ago, the final shipping edition completed chapter of ASP.NET MVC in Action hit my inbox and after getting it on my Kindle I forgot about it for a few weeks. I have a personal project that my wife and I have been talking about for a while now that I want to write using MVC. So, as a way to get myself in the right mindset I sat down and read the book cover to cover recently.

The book is broken up into four major sections. Chapters 1-5 give you an in depth overview of the core concepts of the MVC architecture. Model, View, Controller and Routing all get dedicated chapters that give you a firm understanding of their purpose and usage.

The second section of the book covers the various extension points of the framework as well as application architectural concerns. View Helpers, Partials, Components and Action Filters are all touched on.

The third portion of the book is a kind of of hodgepodge of topics. MonoRail and Ruby on Rails get a chapter that gives some historical context on the topic. Hosting and Deployment are covered to help you figure out how to get MVC running under IIS6 or IIS7. “Classic” ASP.NET tooling is covered to give you an idea of existing tools and techniques that applicable in the new framework.

The final section of the book wraps everything up nicely with some guidance with Best Practices and a set of Recipes to get you started.

I can recommend this book as a great place to start on your journey into ASP.NET MVC with a couple caveats.

This book is not for beginners. It assumes you have a significant amount of ASP.NET development under your belt. And by “ASP.NET Development” I do not mean dragging and dropping controls on Web Forms. If you have implemented IHttpHandler or pages that do not require View State this book should be right up your alley. On the other hand if GridView is your best friend because it handles everything for you… maybe this book is not so much for you.

This book is highly opinionated. The authors are prominent figures in the ALT.NET community. There is a certain amount of agenda pushed in this book. Concepts like DI/IoC, Unit Testing and ORM are not only mentioned but are actively demonstrated as best practices. When available open source projects are used in examples and Microsoft tooling are more or less shunned. NHibernate, StructureMap, NUnit, MVCContrib and the current state of the art in ALT.NET toolbox all make appearances. Jeffrey Palermo’s Code Camp Server serves as the sample application through most of the book.

This is not so much of a problem for me as this is Kool-Aid that I have openly drank and serve to others around me. I use these tools, I understand their value and enjoy seeing them being used in examples in a book. Others who prefer to be fed the Microsoft story line by line wanting to only stick to the nuts and bolts of the technology might find this distracting.

In the end Jeffrey Palermo, Ben Scheirman and Jimmy Bogard not only did an excellent job of putting together a great practical guide to ASP.NET MVC they also successfully embedded some subversive ALT.NET concepts that will hopeful make us all better developers. And at the end of the day that is a damn fine accomplishment.

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